Misogynistic Theology: Keeping Women Out!

A transcript from audio on the Desiring God website on January 22 gives Piper’s answer to the question: “whether women should be models, mentors, and teachers for those preparing for a role that is biblically designed for spiritual men.” He observes that, unlike in college, in Seminaries a young man “is now submitting himself to a community of teachers who, by their precept and example, are called to shape his mind and his heart for vocational pastoral ministry.” It is therefore Piper’s opinion that to “distinguish the seminary teaching role from the pastoral teaching role in such a way that the biblical restriction to men does not apply to the seminary teaching results in a serious inconsistency.” He concludes that ” in seeking to justify women teacher-mentors for aspiring pastors, one will be hard put to stress that they’re not in the same category as pastors, and thus, as we believe, out of step with the Scriptures.”

See how the logic goes: We men (that is Piper, his elder, his co-teachers at his church’s seminary, the old 19th century Princeton school, etc., etc.)… we men, used to a patriarchal system in which we have arrogated to ourselves the prerogative of determining the meaning of a text that was written by men. Given this, we determine that the meaning of the Biblical text implies the exclusion of women from the pastorate. This is a watertight argument since God has appointed only men to lead the flock. How do we know? Well, the Bible teaches it. How do we know? Well, that how we read the Scriptures.

It is not difficult to see the fallacious nature of this argument. It’s a closed loop where the output (exclusion of women) is safeguarded by the input (men are the only ones to perform the task of exegesis and hermeneutics). What is important to note is that behind the misogynistic theology stands a solid tradition of biblicism. Biblicism is the art of elevating the literal meaning of the text to absolute truth without sufficient warrant to do so (plus insufficient guarantees or a proper execution of the process itself). It is similar to scientism where the claim that only scientific knowledge can be used for advancing human knowledge is itself not scientifically proven.

It is even more important, however, to see that biblicism (together with its faithful ally inerrancy) is not just the source of misogynistic theology. It could well be argued that such theology is driven primarily by patriarchal attitudes and the fear of letting go of control to women. In that case, misogyny is the source of the kind of biblicism and inerrantist thinking that leads to the conclusion that women can’t be pastors. Biblicism and inerrancy are thus exposed as unreasonable and unholy, as life-destroying and women-restricting. And that is exactly what Piper’s biblical approach amounts to: a perpetuation of misogyny and male-domination. As such it has little to do with the Bible or with the God whose glory is so much desired by Piper and his pastor-theologian friends.

And so, let me be clear: I AM a man. I AM a theologian. I AM a potential seminary professor. And I write this to express my feelings of embarrassment and outrage over the male-dominated, misogynistic, and destructive theology that comes from John Piper at Desiring God. It creates a bad name for the religion I belong to!

As a male theologian I welcome female professors to the seminary. I consider their contribution essential! Yes, they take the jobs that I could have potentially had, but we’ve heard enough white male evangelicals telling others (i.e. women, but I could also add black people, the non-Western world, etc.) how things are to be done.

During my studies at two different seminaries I was struck again and again at how important the voices of female theologians are, how significant their insights are, and what powerful influence they’ve managed to have on the formation of my own theology. One of my female profs basically mothered me into becoming a theologian. (Of course a bad one if one is to believe Piper.)

Finally, Piper’s voice is not only misogynistic but blasphemous as well. If we consider that both male and female were created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27), it ought to be argued that he silences half of the image of God. And “complementarianism” is then just a beautiful long word for something unbiblical. Worse, he imposes on what he considers to be the inerrant Word of God his own myopic fundamentalist interpretation of what God says thereby reducing God to a puppet who is then paraded as a woman-hater.

Once again: his misogynistic theology is the result of his misogyny (a prior existent condition), which can’t be corrected because he rules out women’s voices from the start. And since women’s voices make up half of God’s image, he stands guilty of resisting the work of the Holy Spirit.

Josh de Keijzer, Ph.D. Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, USA. Bonhoeffer scholar. Currently living in the Netherlands.

2 Responses

  1. I’ve been studying Bauckham’s work on freedom in “The Bible in Politics “ and, of course Webb’s work on Redemptive Movement Hermeneutics, and I think those two together make a strong case against Piper’s theology concerning women’s roles. Our metanarrative begins with Kingdom freedom, degenerates, and then is left to us, and the work of the Holy Spirit to redeem.

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